Reigning Super League champions Silver Strikers have made a stunning confession that based on their recent sterile performance, they will not compete in the elite CAF Champions League next year.
However, some football commentators have said the Bankers have ample time to work on their shortfalls.
In March this year, Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Governor Charles Chuka, who is also the team’s patron, hinted on sponsoring the club’s participation in the continental club showpiece.
But the club’s chairperson Dr. McDonald Mafuta-Mwale told the Weekend Nation this week that his team is currently not good enough to compete with the cream of the continent.
“Following the sponsor’s commitment, we were willing to join the next edition of the CAF Champions League, but our recent performance does not demonstrate that we deserve to take part in such an elite competition.
“It would not be fair to take part for the sake of it and then end up embarrassing the sponsor, our supporters and indeed the entire nation.
“If we are struggling on the local scene, there is no way we can perform wonders at such a big stage, it will just be a waste of resources. We do not want just to make numbers, but to compete and, at least, make it to the group stages,” said Mafuta-Mwale.
The Silver boss, therefore, said unless there is a dramatic change of form, the plan has been shelved for now.
“We now have to focus on identifying the problems and then come up with the solutions and that could take a bit of time,” he said.
Battered, bruised and barely recognisable as one of local football giants, Silver were left searching their soul after a string of poor results that saw them register a single win out of eight games. However, there was some comfort for the Area 47-based outfit when they trounced Mafco 3-0 in a midweek league fixture.
However, Mafuta-Mwale said it is too early to conclude that the team has pulled through.
RBM spokesperson Mbane Ngwira said if the team’s brass feels they are not ready for a continental tournament, there is very little they can do about it as sponsors.
“Normally, it starts from the club management which makes recommendation on any of their plans, including joining an international tournament and if they see that they are not ready, then it is up to them.
“And even in the event that they think they are ready, as a sponsor we would have to make our own assessment.
“So, if Dr. Mwale said they are not ready then it means they have critically analysed the situation and probably they know there are shortfalls that need to be rectified for them to be ready. He [Mafuta-Mwale] heads the team’s leadership, so he should know,” said Ngwira.
He was, however, quick to point out that the club has not officially taken up the issue with the sponsor.
Former Big Bullets captain Peter ‘Mjojo’ Mponda who led the People’s Team to the CAF Champions League quarter-finals in 2004, shared Mafuta-Mwale’s opinion.
“If it were last season, I would have had a different view because they performed very well and were consistent.
“But they have experienced a downward spiral this season and they are struggling to make the grade on the local scene. It would, therefore, be a tall order to expect them to turn the corner and perform miracles within the next four months or so.
“Maybe they can be given the benefit of the doubt and be able to breathe a new lease of life as the season heads towards the second round, but the signs are discouraging because the CAF Champions League is a big tournament that requires tactical and mental strength as well as sound preparations,” said Mponda.
However, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions officer Gomezgani Zakazaka and football marketing consultant and agent Felix Ngamanya-Sapao had a different view.
Said Zakazaka: “I think it is a bit too early for Silver to count themselves out.
“They still have enough time to work on their shortfalls and beef up their squad because the tournament only starts around March. So, they have enough time between now and January. It could be that Dr. Mafuta-Mwale spoke that out of frustration due to the team’s poor showing.”
He also said the Bankers would miss out an opportunity for exposure.
“It is very rare for a sponsor to hint on sponsoring a club’s participation in such an elite tournament and, as a team, Silver stand to lose out on exposure,” said Zakazaka.